Rafting Through Minor Emergencies on the Upper Truckee River

Rafting Through Minor Emergencies on the Upper Truckee River

What were we thinking?  Really, I don’t regret doing it.  I’m not one to regret experiences. Even when everything is going wrong, at the very least you have a story.  And when all of your river-mates are commenting that this is surely a future post on Family Trek, you know you have a story.

We’re in Lake Tahoe and my wife’s mom and sister are visiting us from Santa Barbara.  But the real honored guests are my sister-in-law’s kids.  There’s nothing like visiting cousins.  Our two kids have been having a blast with their two cousins since their arrival.

There’s a popular spot nearby our house where you can put-in to raft, canoe, or paddle board  and head off down the Upper Truckee River which eventually spills into Lake Tahoe.  So The 7 of us, along with our friend Lisa and her son Caden, all hit the river about noon yesterday.

5 adults and 5 kids under 5 on the river for the afternoon.

About 20 minutes down the river our first minor emergency occurs.

Upper Truckee River

Upper Truckee River

Monica and I in our raft with our two kids fail to get ashore at a pivotal point.  We knew the spot was coming and that it’d be best to get out, walk along the river a bit through a gnarly little spot, and then put back in.  But we missed the opportunity to come ashore and there was no turning back.

We were all in.

Through the rapids we went and we were feeling pretty good.

And then…..

If you’ve been in this situation before you know it’s hard to put your finger exactly on what happened.  But I knew we were in trouble and I grabbed 3-year-old Jackson as we went down.  Boy was Jackson crying!

Monica was going down too–and she grabbed 20-month-old Emery.  Everyone ashore, including our raft, which is busted.  We find the tear on the bottom.  A pretty good one.  We’re trying to figure out how to get everyone in the two rafts when a kayaker comes by and gives us some duct tape.

We patch up the raft and the fun is just beginning…

Our 20-month-old usually gets up around 7:30 in the morning and takes a nap around noon. On this particular morning she got up at 5 and now it’s after 1.  And she is tired.

She’s fussy, and having just experienced the cold waters they’re both terrified by any sudden movements.  And though we’re floating down the river I know that we’re losing air.

We stop again.  More duct tape.  And we decide to move my 6-foot-4-inch, 250 pound body into a more stable boat so I’m now cruising down the river with Caden. Lisa joins Monica in our boat who is now holding a sleeping Emery.  Jackson is off to join grandma and his aunt and cousins in the other boat.

More floating, more tape, still losing air.  We stop again.  This time the in-laws cruise on ahead with Jackson and as they disappear around the bend I can hear the shrill of Jackson’s screams.  After the day’s earlier occurrences he’s not too excited about having Mom and Dad out of site.

Ok, that’s a major understatement.

Upper Truckee River

Upper Truckee River

Honestly, the rest of the trip was pretty chill for me.  Entertaining Caden and cruising down the river.

All while Monica and Lisa provided plenty of entertainment.

The boat is losing air at a more and more rapid pace.  They move to the continuous pump mode–one of them paddling while the other is pumping air into the raft.  All while taking care of Emery.

When we finally get to our destination, we find the other boat which once held our river companions abandoned.  Apparently they just wanted the heck out of there.   It didn’t look good.  They’d just left everything in the boat and went straight to the car.

I’d have feared they’d taken the car and left us if I didn’t have the keys!

I haul one of the boats and Emery up to the car and hand off Emery to grandma.  She looks, shall we say…. frazzled.

Two-year-old cousin Jake had fallen in.  Jackson had cried the whole rest of the way.  Grandma was d-o-n-e.

Get the gear.  Get it loaded up.  And let’s get home.

So what lessons do I take?

  1. Take less stuff.  We were weighed down by a lot of stuff we didn’t need.  Our food was bulky.  Gotta pack more manageable raft food.  And take less food than you think you need.  We adults didn’t even get hungry.  Just need a few little things to keep the kids happy.
  2. The stuff we did have got wet.  Need a dry bag.
  3. Most important thing is a good patch kit.  We’d been better off getting out and walking that notorious rapid that took us out, but had we had a good patch kit the rest of the trip would have gone much smoother.
  4. Take plenty of duct tape on any trip on the river.
  5. All of the usual things when being outdoors and/or on the water apply here.  Pack your bug spray and sunscreen.
  6. Get a string and tie pacifiers or any other baby / toddler essentials to life-vests.  The biggest loss of the day was a lost pacifier.

Would I do it again?  Yeah…. but I’m going to need a while to recover!

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